EXPLAINER: Could jury weigh lesser charges for Rittenhouse?
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors in Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial could ask the jury to consider lesser charges when it gets the case, a move that could secure a conviction for some crime but take a possible life sentence off the table. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger has struggled to counter Rittenhouse's self-defense arguments during the Illinois man's trial, raising questions about whether his office overcharged Rittenhouse. Daniel Adams, a former Milwaukee County assistant district attorney who isn't involved in the trial, described Binger's case as “incredibly underwhelming.”“He's got nothing,” Adams said.
The jurors who cleared Kyle Rittenhouse on the five charges against him – ranging from intentional homicide to reckless homicide to reckless endangerment – haven't yet spoken publicly.
When they do, they'll likely be asked: Where did they find reasonable doubt?
But that's the wrong question, civil rights attorney Jamie White told USA TODAY after the Illinois teen was found not guilty Friday in a polarizing case that further split America along political and racial lines more than a year after he shot three men, two fatally, during a night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Story Explained
The case surrounding the 18-year-old has sparked frequent debate since the shootings took place in Kenosha in August 2020.After two weeks of testimony, the defense and prosecution will outline their arguments surrounding the 18-year-old for the final time to the jury at Kenosha County Circuit court.
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“They didn’t have to come up with reasonable doubt,” said White, a Michigan-based criminal defense attorney who has represented dozens of sexual abuse victims in high-profile cases involving the Boy Scouts of America and Larry Nassar, the disgraced former doctor for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. . “They never got there. It was all about, was he (Rittenhouse) acting reasonably at the time of the shootings?”
“If you’ve got them convinced of self-defense, if you’ve got them to believe that everything he did was to defend his life and his life was at risk, that if he wouldn’t have shot those men he’d be dead himself, that’s it,” said Yeretsian, who’s worked on high-profile cases including the defenses of Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson.
Kyle Rittenhouse verdict reactions: From 'Justice system broken' to 'Justice system worked'
“As far as his testimony goes, the jurors clearly found him credible and that in itself is huge," she added. "If you believe him when he says self-defense, then you have to acquit him.”
Other legal experts also expressed little surprise with the verdict
"I think that anyone who saw the evidence could see that the jury might have a difficult time coming to a unanimous decision that Kyle Rittenhouse wasn't defending himself," Julius Kim, a Wisconsin defense attorney and former prosecutor, told NPR.
Things we've learned from Kyle Rittenhouse's trial that challenged challenge assumptions that emerged over the last 15 months.
"They were not deciding here – who do they believe more. They were deciding a very specific legal question: Do they think the prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't self-defense," ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams said on World News Tonight, adding he believed videos of the shootings were particularly impactful on the jury.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger didn't help the state's case, legal experts told USA TODAY.
While White said he "wasn’t impressed at all by the prosecutor," although he also acknowledged he didn’t have access to all the evidence, he did agree with Binger's argument to the jury that “when you talk about self-defense, it has to be proportionate – and using a semi-automatic rifle on someone who’s kicking you or hitting you with a skateboard is not proportionate."
“If anything was going to turn the table, I thought it was going to be that argument, that you can’t bring a gun to a fistfight," White said. "But, in this case, the jury ruled that you could.”
These were Kyle Rittenhouse's shooting victims: Anthony Huber, Joseph Rosenbaum, Gaige Grosskreutz
'Untouchable super citizens': Will the Rittenhouse verdict fuel vigilantism - or a needed step toward more freedom
Reaction to the Rittenhouse verdict has been polarizing: Right-wing groups celebrating, and liberal leaders decrying the decision as a harbinger of lawless vigilantism and domestic terrorism. Your browser does not support this video The Rittenhouse case became a flashpoint on many of the most divisive issues across the country: the right to bear arms, police brutality, racial injustice and the rise of right-wing militia groups. The teen became a hero in Republican corners and a symbol to the left of the rise of white nationalism and armed militia groups.
Binger's inability to sway the jury on proportionate use of force was a pivotal moment in a trial that began with him already facing "an uphill battle," Yeretsian told USA TODAY.
"Even the prosecution’s witnesses, they were supporting the defense’s argument – when the one survivor testified that he pointed his gun at Rittenhouse and that’s when Rittenhouse shot him, that gives the jury enough," she said.
Putting Rittenhouse on the stand, Yeretsian said, was “risky but the right move, especially in a trial with the entire nation watching it.” Rittenhouse’s emotional testimony – he cried at one point – worked in his favor, she said.
“He’s got this baby face, he shed some tears, that could pull at some heart strings – defense attorneys count on those things,” Yeretsian said. “But other than the few moments of crying and him being emotional, he was pretty calm and able to explain his side. He came across as credible.”
She added, "(The jury) bought the self-defense argument, and that’s really the bottom line.”
Kyle Rittenhouse closes his eyes and cries as he is found not guilt on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation.
From left, Kariann Swart, Joseph Rosembaum's fiancee, Susan Hughe, Anthony Huber's great aunt, and Hannah Gittings, Anthony Huber's girlfriend, listen as Kyle Rittenhouse is found not guilty at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 19, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Judge Bruce Schroeder, right, listens as the verdicts are ready by Judicial Assistant Tami Mielcarek in Kyle Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.
Kyle Rittenhouse hugs one of his attorneys, Corey Chirafisi, after he is found not guilt on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.
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Kyle Rittenhouse's mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, reacts as her son is found not guilt on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation.
Kyle Rittenhouse's mother, Wendy, second from left, and his sisters, McKenzie, and Faith nervously wait as the jury enters the room to give the verdicts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, explained: 'If you believe him when he says self-defense, then you have to acquit him'
Acquitted and in demand, Rittenhouse ponders what's next .
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — When he was acquitted of murder in shootings during unrest in Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse went from staring at possible life behind bars to red-hot star of the right: an exclusive interview with Tucker Carlson and a visit with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago capped by a photo of both men smiling and snapping a thumbs-up. For Rittenhouse, a year of legal uncertainty over whether his claim of self-defense would stand up has given way to uncertainty over what’s next. He told Carlson, in an appearance that spiked the host’s ratings by some 40%, that he hoped to become a nurse or maybe even a lawyer. He planned to “lay low” but would for sure leave the Midwest.